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Lawmakers support condoms at prisons

By Mirirai Nsingo / Published on Monday, 12 Jun 2017 17:47 PM / No Comments / 605 views

12 June 2017

 

LAWMAKERS say Zimbabwe can continue to ignore the debate on condom distribution in prisons at its own peril in the wake of a high HIV prevalence rate in the country’s prisons.

This emerged during the Health and Child Care parliamentary portfolio and HIV and AIDS thematic committees’ advocacy workshop held in the Midlands Province last week.

It was agreed that the high HIV prevalence in the country’s prisons could impede on the HIV gains that have been made over the years.

The HIV prevalence in prisons stands at 27 percent, almost two times higher than the national prevalence of 14 percent.

“First the issue of condoms in prisons appears so sensitive and is talked about in hashed tongues while it has a consensus that people are getting new infections in prisons, a sign that people are having same sex intercourse.

“Authorities are not open to discuss about issues of same sex in prisons and there is need to send a parliamentarian delegation to Lesotho to try and find out how successful the distribution of condoms in that country’s prisons this has been so we can come back and discuss about the possibility of introducing them back home.

“Prisoners are among the key populations and if nothing is done about this group, we can as well forget about ending AIDS by 2030,” said Binga North legislator, Prince Sibanda.

Sibanda argued that as legislators they were not calling to legitimize same sex relationships in the country noting that at least the country should be alive to the fact that same sex intercourse is happening especially in prisons.

“Not that we are saying let us legitimise same sex intercourse but we are saying at least let us be alive to the fact that it is taking place and where it is taking place and it is doing so in a manner that is spreading HIV. We need to put measures so that where it is taking place, it is then done in a safe manner.”

Shamva South legislator, Joseph Mapiki concurred that the high HIV prevalence in prisons was worrisome adding that something should be done to stop the spread of HIV in prisons.

“We really need to attend to this crisis of a high HIV prevalence in prisons as a matter of urgency if we are to stop the spread of HIV. I’m informed that these prisoners will be negative when they get into prisons yet they are later found to be positive, so it is what it is.

“We all have a role to fight the spread of HIV as we fast track the ending AIDS goal, so much resources have been channeled towards HIV prevention, treatment and care over the years and we cannot afford to reverse the gains,” he said.

Health and Child Care committee chair, DR Ruth Labode buttressed that it was time condoms were introduced in prisons if the country was to end AIDS and focus on other developmental issues.

“The numbers of men who are taken to hospitals who have sores or chancroid, which are sexually-transmitted diseases of the anus, has increased and this is evidence that inmates are having sex with each other yet as people, we have decided to turn a blind eye and pretend that this is not happening.

“We are forgetting that those men come out and meet the innocent wife who is at home and infect that woman. We need to seriously, as a Government, say we do not agree with this thing, but we have evidence that it is happening. Here are condoms and ARVs, so that if those men are using condoms, they will come out clean.”

Health and Child Care Minister, David Parirenyatwa is on record calling for action after it emerged that the HIV prevalence in the country’s prisons was higher than the national prevalence.

According to United Nations AIDS Programme (UNAIDS), Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates at 14 percent with some 1,2 million locals living with HIV.

However, the country’s prison services say HIV prevalence among inmates now stands at 27 percent and same sex intercourse could be spiking the infections.

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